A US couple loaned a valuable Camille Pissarro painting to a Paris museum earlier this year—and now they've lost it for good. "La Cueillette des Pois," or "Picking Peas," by the impressionist master was displayed in an exhibition at Marmottan and was recognized there by one of the descendants of a French Jewish family who owned the painting before it was looted during WWII. The work was placed in temporary escrow, and the AP reports that a civil court in Paris on Tuesday ruled that while Bruce and Robbi Toll didn't act in bad faith when they bought the painting from Christie's more than two decades ago, the initial and following sales of all goods looted from Jewish people by the French Vichy regime or its Nazi allies during the war were declared void by France's post-war authorities in 1945.
The Pissarro painting was part of a collection of 93 master canvases amassed by Simon Bauer over the first part of the last century. His collection was confiscated by the Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis, and sold by a vendor in 1944. It was sold to an unknown buyer in 1966 by Sotheby's; the Tolls bought it in 1995 for $800,000, but the judges didn't award them any financial compensation. "For them it's a total loss," says their lawyer, Ron Soffer. The artwork's estimated worth is now $1.75 million. Bauer's last surviving grandson says he's "pleased" and adds the Tolls were likely "victims of a system" or "misguided." Soffer says his clients "are disappointed" and will appeal. In the meantime, the canvas will be kept in escrow by Paris' Orsay Museum. (The Dutch Red Cross admits a painful WWII truth.)